This might be considered sappy, but in all seriousness one of my first memories of downtown St. Louis is walking across the skybridge from the parking garage into the old Famous Barr in the Railway Exchange Building during our first visit to St. Louis Centre.
Fast forward almost forty years and St. Louis Centre has been gutted, turned into a bizarre parking garage, and the Railway Exchange is abandoned, trashed and increasingly looking like a set piece missed for the filming of Escape from New York.
The skybridge is being dismantled by the City of St. Louis itself, in the wake of the tragic death of a Fire Department search dog, bringing to an end a fixture of Olive Street that has loomed over the major one-way thoroughfare for generations.
The windows once famed for their Christmastime displays are now boarded up, the sleazy slumlord living out of town not having to bear witness to what his laissez faire capitalism has wrought on our city. I guess it’s safe to say that if even the Railway Exchange Building can end up like this, then any place in St. Louis can if we’re not careful.
The crumby parking garage to the south, soon to have its cord cut from its attached building, sits abandoned as well, with what looks to be evidence of a fire. I imagine it will probably be torn down one day.
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Just sad that these memories from my childhood are in the state they are now in😢
It’s not ‘sappy’ at all to mourn the loss of so much of the dynamics of Downtown. In my youth, I used to work as an usher across the street from the Railway Exchange Building at the glorious, and long since destroyed, Ambassador Theatre. 7th and Locust used to be the very center of activity in downtown and now it’s nothing but a mournful wasteland of decrepitude. I always shopped at the Famous-Barr, and it’s tea room was a gathering place for many people who worked downtown. In the 60’s it was hard to walk on the sidewalks at lunch hour, it was always crowded. Now the center of what passes for ‘street life’ surrounds the baseball stadium as the city farther’s dream of turning downtown into a sports complex for suburbanites has come to fruition. It’s simply outrageous that the totally inept mayor of the city has not been able to reign in these slumlords who are slowly destroying the city with their neglect. When people sit in their overpriced seats at Busch Stadium, the view includes several abandoned buildings that still stand as empty props where a real city used to be. I certainly hope that the Railway Exchange Building will not be totally destroyed before some responsible developer can have a go at repurposing it. My fear is that homeless people will be able to break in and start a fire that will lead to a conflagration and downtown will be left with a burned out hulk where it’s heart used to be.